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Queens Chronicle

A world of sci-fi at the Queens Museum

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Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2019 10:30 am

When science fiction comes to mind, it conjures up images of lightsabers, UFO invasions and little green men with ray guns coming to take over Earth. Sci-fi, though, can be used as a framing device to reflect the past, present, future, cultural identity, contemporary politics and other topics that are relevant. The Queens Museum now features “Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas,” an exhibition that focuses on such topics. On display are various visual arts and mixed-multimedia displays such as paintings, installations and movies that show an interpretation of the present world but also ask “what ifs” about our future.

The museum’s website says the exhibition “brings together contemporary artists from across the Americas who have tapped into science fiction’s capacity to imagine new realities, both utopian and dystopian.” All of the artists involved are of Latino/a/x heritage and much of the art reflects that cultural identity also. Robb Hern·ndez, assistant professor of English at University of California Riverside, is one of the curators. Hern·ndez said Queens was an ideal venue to bring this exhibit because of the borough’s diversity and history with science.

“I was particularly compelled by the multiethnic landscape, but also the 1964 World’s Fair, which inaugurated the space age for the United States,” he said.

Joanna Szupinska-Myers, another curator, said artists who had dealt with speculative fiction were ideal candidates to be included in the exhibition. “We found artists using this genre can imagine the power structures of our society,” she said. “We learn something about our true world ... When we think of science fiction we also think of the white astronaut, world power, things about our racial structure and societal norms can get questioned.”

Walking through the exhibit, you are greeted with various visual arts displays. Two of those belong to El Salvadoran-born artist Beatriz Cortez. She created “The Untimely Conversation Box” and “Cosmos (Spaceship).” Both are interactive displays. For the former, you can press a button that prints out a receipt with a philosophy quote that you can take home with you. For “Cosmos (Spaceship),” an audio recording of the last surviving member of the Native American tribe, the Yahi, plays on a loop. The spaceship may seem small when looking at it from one side, but there is an opening you can enter through. Don’t worry. It won’t fly off into space.

Cortez said that this exhibition can open up dialogues on the concept of being Latin American. “This exhibition invites the public to imagine the future, and to find dialogues and points of coincidence between artists who lived in different time periods or in different spaces,” Cortez said. “I think this is an exhibition that is curated based on a concept, rather than an identity, and because of that, it opens up our ideas about what it might mean to be Latin American or Latinx.”

The museum will also be hosting discussions with some of the artists, film screenings, poets and other events that go along with the themes of the exhibition.

“I want people to have fun. I think science fiction is a fun genre. I think if we start to sound too serious then you’re missing the joy of it. The joy of art. The joy of stories,” said Szupinska-Myers. “I want people to dazzled.”

“Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas” runs to Aug. 17 at the Queens Museum, located in the New York City Building at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

‘Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas’
When: Through Aug. 17, Wednesdays through Sundays
Where: Queens Museum, Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Entry: $8; seniors $4; kids, students, NYC educators free.
(718) 592-9700,

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